How-to: Afford Travel

Vasastan, Stockholm

Vasastan, Stockholm

Many people ask me, “How can you afford to travel?” The truth is I barely can. It involves a ton of planning, and usually months of savings. Every January I choose my destinations and travel dates for the rest of the year. Then I make a plan: tracking airfare prices, hotel deals, researching the exchange rate and how to make the most of my hard-earned dollars once I land there. I also start cutting back on eating-out and random purchases. The usual ways of saving. I’m not great at it, but I keep at it. Because regardless of the cost, I believe there’s a lot more we earn from travel than what we spend.

Swedish Institute, Stockholm

Swedish Institute, Stockholm

But I recently discovered a way to travel that allows you to learn more about your chosen destination in an affordable way, and grow your career along the way. I’m talking about grants and scholarships. Many governmental and nonprofit organizations around the world offer travel grants to foreign students and influencers to encourage international relations between nations and as a way of sharing their culture abroad. I used to think these grants were only available to students, but there are a few that are actually targeted to working adults, in order to help them develop their careers. One of the organizations offering these types of grants and scholarships is Svenska Institutet (SI).

“We have governmental grants that we provide to the countries of interest to Sweden, and that’s basically the whole world,” said Johanna Jeppsson, Deputy Head of Unit of Talent Mobility at SI.

The Swedish Institute, as it’s called in English, is an organization under Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that provides aid in two ways. One branch focuses on poverty reduction, providing scholarships to students in need who live in developing nations. The other branch focuses on promoting Sweden around the world, mostly concentrating on the U.S. and other western countries.

As an American citizen, I applied for a professional growth scholarship called the Bicentennial Swedish-American Exchange Fund. The goal of this particular fund is to give American citizens and permanent residents a chance to grow in their respective fields and contribute to the development of their societies with those learnings.  

“We are looking for what we call change makers,” said Jeppsson. “People that have an idea of how they would like to use the amount of money they receive from us, in order to change something or to create opinion.”

Johanna Jeppsson

Johanna Jeppsson

Each person selected for this scholarship is awarded up to SEK $30,000 to pay for a study visit to Sweden ranging between two- and four-weeks. At the end of the trip, scholarship holders are requested to submit a report to SI explaining what they learned and how they accomplished the goal originally stated in their proposal.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a social media influencer to get awarded. There are many ways in which your field can influence change in society. Those involved within public administration, the environment, politics, education and business can also benefit greatly from this type of study visit. Bringing back their knowledge and influencing their community.

“We had a person from the U.S. who came here to study our transportation system,” said Jeppsson as an example. “We also had a social worker from the U.S., who came here to study how we work with the refugees, in order for her to use these methods.”

The Bicentennial Fund is only one of the scholarships offered. In 2016, the Swedish Institute sponsored 1,707 people from all different walks of life.

Swedish Princess Cake and Smörgås lunch.

Swedish Princess Cake and Smörgås lunch.

For me, the visit to Sweden helped me define a more focused vision for my career, this website and my social media presence. It also allowed me to experience an incredible society and a culture that, while being very different from my own, it’s incredibly easy to fall in love with. Most importantly, it allowed me to share that beautiful culture with the world.

To learn more about the Swedish Institute, visit:

The Bicentennial Swedish-American Exchange Fund will be managed by the Sweden-American Foundation as of this year, for more information visit:



Quick Guide to Copenhagen

Copenhagen is one of my favorite cities in the world. The Danish capital is known for sharp design, modern interiors and a growing foodie scene. There’s tons to do and see at every corner. Here’s my quick list of things you should not miss while you’re there.

Tivoli Gardens

1.   Tivoli Gardens
It’s said that Walt Disney was inspired by this majestic amusement park when he decided to build his own, and it’s easy to see why. The Tivoli features a collection of rides, theater performances and themed restaurants that are certain to bring out your inner child. While the park is open only from mid-April to September, it re-opens for a few weeks during Halloween and Christmas. It’s a fun place for everyone, no matter your age.

2.   Statens Museum for Kunst.
Also known as the National Gallery of Denmark, this museum holds a wide collection of Danish and Nordic art. Their French and European collections are also pretty impressive. Even the building itself is a must see. The museum is comprised of two contrasting buildings. The main building dates back to 1896 and depicts classic architecture. The extension completed in 1998 shows the modern and clean design of Danish architecture. The best part is that you can gain entrance to the permanent exhibitions for free.

3.   Freetown Christiania
This neighborhood is home to a very unique community. While most people know it as the place where cannabis is sold and consumed openly, the community is also a haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals with beautiful murals covering practically every available wall. It’s a fun place to walk around a discover a different side of Copenhagen, but don’t take any pictures in the main street where the vendors are located (Pusher Street).

The Little Mermaid

4.   The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue)
Perhaps another one of Disney’s inspirations? This statue is the symbol of the city and a huge tourist attraction. Completed in 1913, the statue based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, sits on a rock on the shoreline of Langelinie park. I recommend getting here early in the morning to avoid the huge crowds and tour buses.

5.   The Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
This 17th Century tower is a great place from which to see the Copenhagen skyline. The building itself is known for the equestrian staircase that leads you to the top. Basically a cobblestone road that loops around all the way to the top. I tried running all the way to the top, but couldn’t really make it! Instead I recommend taking it slow and getting good pictures for your Instagram.

Any other places you’d like to add to this list? Share them in the comments!

Statens Museum for Kunst

The Round Tower

Freetown Christiania